John 10:1-10 The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

 

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  

 

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 

 

 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

 

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” 

 

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

 

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 

 

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 

 

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

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Hello. It is good to be writing to you even if rfom my isolation at home.

 

As I prepared my thoughts for today, a number of things crossed my mind.

 

I now wake up each morning to the sound of silence, apart from the birds. No traffic noise. I have no feeling that I have to rush to get on with one of the many tasks that are normally there.

 

All I can hear is the sound of the wind in the trees and of the birds. Particularly pigeons, a pair of which are nesting in our back garden.

If you sit quietly and watch them, you see their anxiety in everything they do. Always stopping and checking that it is safe to enter the nest. Always out and about seeking nesting materials and food! A bit like all of us at the moment in lockdown! Anxious about what is to happen next!

 

If we do nothing else different at this difficult time, let us stop and observe the beauty of nature and the rhythms of life all around us which we are usually to busy to look for and observe. It reminds us how wonderful creation is. Watching the pigeons I feel closer to nature and I feel closer to God, 

 

Our Gospel reading today reflects that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

 

In the old testament the concept of the shepherd was often used to symbolise a caretaker of God’s people. Have a look at Ezekiel 34! It tells us that God had given great responsibility to the leaders, the shepherds of Israel to care for the people of Israel. This they hadn’t done. And so he promised to provide a true Shepherd, Jesus, to care for the sheep. 

 

In our reading, Jesus is speaking to those who were supposed to be the guardians of the holy law. The moral leaders! To be the shepherds! But as we read too often in the bible, they were hidebound by their misguided perception of the law, without basic understanding and humanity.

 

There are two images in this text.  In 10:1-5 Jesus simply speaks a truth that his hearers would have known and relied upon.  Because Judean's highly valued their sheep as a main source of their food and their clothing  they would have known each one of them and they would have protected them with their lives. There are also a couple of interesting things about the shepherd with whom Jesus identifies himself. 

 

First, this shepherd has the well-being of the sheep at heart, rather than his own well-being.  This shepherd is neither thief nor bandit who would steal sheep, considered a profoundly anti-social act and one in which the sheep would only come to a bad end.  Jesus emphasises the difference between the bandit and shepherd:  the shepherd enters rightly, properly, and openly into the sheepfold. All is open and above board, a cooperative effort with an obliging doorkeeper and sheep who respond to the sound of their name.  

 

There is a relationship of trust among all parties here.  Notice that the sheep are not presented as stupid.  They "know" whom they can trust. In verse 4, their trust is validated and emphasised by another piece of the shepherd's behaviour: He brings the sheep out of the fold and then goes before them. The sheep do not simply escape some confinement or hasten out of the fold to brave the larger world on their own.  Their shepherd leads them out and then goes in front of them, to lead them.  The sheep are not abandoned.

 

The text tells us that the audience didn’t understand this analogy so Jesus tries again to contrast himself with thieving leaders.  He becomes very specific about those who had come before him as the thieves and bandits that he had mentioned in verse 1 and were described in Ezekiel,  from whom the sheep rightly fled. 

 

Jesus says I am the gate, the proper way, the right way, the only way into the sheep fold.  Pasture, that is life, is through me, the gate.  Those who enter are being saved, brought into pasture and life rather than for their destruction. Jesus speaks of the gate to help clarify the image of shepherd.  In both cases it is about the trustworthy one. Whether the one who leads or the one who sets the right path that will lead his followers into ample pasture. 

 

All of us need to follow a good path that leads to good spiritual sustenance.. It is easy to be sidetracked. At the start of the epidemic much good was seen, in caring for those less able. 

Whether it be by simple telephone calls or bringing food and medicines.

 

We did it because it was the right thing to do. Something that instinctively we knew, Jesus would have wanted us to do. He had shown us at this moment in time the right gate to pass through and encouraged us to follow him through it and so many people did. 

 

We must not let that care and compassion fall away.

 

Remember the gate which Jesus wants us to pass through, and do so with confidence and with the certainty that only he can give us, that it is the right thing to do and that he will be there before us to lead us, not just in the current emergency but in everything that we do.

 

This is his promise to us. I will show you the right path and I will open the gate and lead you through it.

 

Let us pray

 

O Lord open my eyes so that I can see the needs of others.

Open my ears so that I may hear their cries.

Open my heart so that they need not be without succour.

Show me where love and faith and hope are needed, and use me to bring them to these places.

Open my eyes and ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for you.

 

I also pray that we may soon meet again in fellowship within our churches and community.

 

In Jesus name I pray Amen

 

Ian